The Approaching Storm
Human paladin of Razmir
Human “paladin” of Razmir
Icar drops his head, anyone sensing motive [hunch] can easily detect embarrassment. Lifting his head, he holds his chin up, eyes fixed on the far wall, as if he is staring through it, “As I told you before, twenty-five years ago, I was a squire to a Sir Vasak, a paladin of Iomedae. This time, in my telling of my story, I will reveal those truths that I neglected to share before.”
He pauses, “Sir Vasak was my father. I am Icar Vasak. My father, a leader among paladins was helping me achieve my destiny of becoming a knight. Ever since I was little and watching my father as a knight, I too want to follow in his footsteps to honor him and our family name. I have been driven by a strong desire for law and order coupled with the courage to stand-up to evil that threaten the weak. Sir Vasak saw this in me and taught me the knighthood and the knight’s code. Sir Vasak explained that the Vasak family name was draped in the honor of protecting the downtrodden by holding up honor, justice and valor that the Goddess Iomedae demands. The issue for me was the fact that I was drawn more to the concept of honor, justice and valor more than to the idea of serving the Goddess Iomedae. My father, Sir Vasak, on the other followed the Goddess with tremendous deep passion and he followed Iomedae’s Paladin Code.”
Icar holds his sword in front of himself and hangs a holy symbol from the handle. He kneels, while focusing on the holy symbol, and recites the following:
I will learn the weight of my sword. Without my heart to guide it, it is worthless – my strength is not in my sword but in my heart. If I lose my sword, I have lost a tool. If I betray my heart, I have died.
I will have faith in the Inheritor. I will channel her strength through my body. I will shine in her legion, and I will not tarnish her glory through base actions.
I am the first into battle, and the last to leave it.
I will not be taken prisoner by my free will. I will not surrender those under my command.
I will never abandon a companion, though I will honor sacrifice freely given.
I will guard the honor of my fellows, both in thought and deed, and I will have faith in them.
When in doubt, I may face my enemies to surrender, but I am responsible for their lives.
I will never refuse a challenge from an equal. I will give honor to worthy enemies and contempt to the rest.
I will suffer death before dishonor.
I will be temperate in my actions, and moderate in my behavior. I will strive to emulate Iomdeae’s perfection.
When he is done, he rises to his feet and returns his sword to his scabbard.
“While I know the words to the code, for my father demanded that from me, the son of a Vasak, I could not identify with that as I knew that it was my inner-drive that drove me, it was who I was, it was not because of Iomedae. Unlike Sir Vasak, I placed my faith in my abilities. However, because of my father’s position, I was knighted as a Iomedae paladin but I did not actually have the blessing of the Goddess because I did not have faith. I knew I was a fraud, but no one else knew. Because of my father’s honor and rank, no one questioned me.
“It was at this time that the Worldwound split open and demons emerged from the depths of hell for the third time in a 100 years and were attacking the border cities of Mendev. The attacks were so intense that Mendev’s knights and paladins could not force the demons back and a call to neighboring kingdoms for help was sent out. Many sent armies and other help. One such group that arrived to help were Knights of Razmir and a group of priests and magic users. It was during a terrible battle at the Icecrift Castle that I told you that I had seen the cowardliness of many paladins of Iomedae as they fled in terror when the demon lords were able to breach the castle walls. It was….."
He pauses, as his voice cracks.
“It was I…. that fled in terror that day, leaving my father, Sir Vasak, and our two squires who were battling a large winged demon on the top of a turret when one of the squires was impaled by the demon’s tailed. As I turned to attack the tail to free my friend, I was smashed upside the face by the backhand from the demon’s fist. I flew against the wall, crushing my ribs and I fell to the ground, bleeding profusely from my face and as well as massive internal bleeding. I could not stand up and knew that if I didn’t get healing soon, I would likely die on this wall. All thoughts of helping others fled my mind, I only wanted to save myself. Laying face down on the stone floor of the turret, I looked through hazy vision to see the one remaining squire and Sir Vasak turn to face the Demon. I struggled to my knees just as the demon emitted a bloodcurdling scream and breathed a fire ball at all of us. I…..”
Tears are streaming down his face now.
“It was I that stepped behind my father and shoved him into the fireball to save myself. I fled… it was me that fled down the stairs away from the demon.
It was at this point that contingent of Razmir knights, 3 in all, rushed up to the stairs, past my retreat and engaged the horrible demon. Together the three of them were able to drive the demonspawn back over the wall. The knights then turned to check on the wounded and one of them bound my wounds and a Razmir priest healed me with a healing rod and explained that Razmir, the living God, was saving my life so that I might serve him in the maintaining lawful order in the world and that he needed me to protect the weak. I was so full of shock and regret that I went along with the Razmir priest who had not seen what had actually happened and I told the story of Sir Vasak, my father, to make myself look brave. It was I who murdered my father and his squire and it was I was the craven and coward!"
He is mad, at whom you do not know.
“I told you before that for the past 25 years, I have dedicated my life to stopping the demon hordes because of that day and because Razmir himself requested that a special contingent of knights prevent the return of Lord Deskari. That is true. But….”
He sighs and rubs his eyes with his hand. With his hand still covering his face, he continues.
“What I didn’t tell you is that after I was healed at the wall that morning, the battle raged on through that day and into the night. Despite my objection, I was thrust back towards the wall, this time with Razmir knights. During a battle later that evening, our group of four knights was overwhelmed by flying demons who cut us off from the rest of the forces. Because of the darkness, no one even knew that we had been separated and reinforcements were not sent to our part of the wall. The demons were many, and they descended on us from all sides, clawing at us with vicious sharp claws that penetrated platemail! Two of my companions were killed on the wall during the first wave of the attack. During the second wave, another companion was was thrown over the wall to his death. The last one was actually taken by two flying demons and flown towards the Worldwound, and I never saw him again. I often awake from hearing his screams in my terrible nightmares. But I was not killed.”
He removes his hand from his face and looks at each of you.
“I was not killed, although there isn’t a day that goes by that I wish I wasn’t. Instead I was pinned down on the stone wall by two large flying demons. Another ominous demon lord suddenly appeared. He was much taller and far more evil and powerful then any demon I had ever seen. He was so dark that I could barely make out his shape, although what I saw revealed a figure of a muscular man with the head of a goat. I shook with fear when I looked into his face and I couldn’t stop myself from screaming from the depths of my souls. The creature only laughed and reached out his right hand towards my heart. With one hand he ripped my platemail chest piece off my body, snapping the metal clasps as it they were only brittle straw. Next, he ripped my padded cloth tunic revealing my chest. He started to chant some mystical words that I have no idea what they meant but I hear them in my nightmares to this day.”
“Runna! Guernova! Runna! Uernova! Runna! Juernova!”
“He repeated those words over and over as he slowly lowered his right hand towards my chest. With his left, be held a glowing leather bound book that was held tight with a metal clasp. It was the same book that the sphere destroyed. What happened next, I am not totally sure, but as his glowing hand touched above my heart, I felt my very soul being ripped from my body. The pain was excruciating and I believe I passed in and out of consciousness. I felt half-empty and I felt like I was losing my identity and even my mind. I lost track of time as I felt empty and then something was being inserted into the emptiness I felt, something that was, evil, something that I revolted my mind and being. And then the pain stopped and the demon lord said, "Icar, you are now bound to Lord Deskari. I have taken part of your soul and given you part of a demon soul. I have also placed all of the information of the Book of Counted Shadows into your heart, mind and soul. You are mine and will be mine agent in this world. With the knowledge of the Book of Counted Shadows, you hold the key to opening the seals that restrain Lord Deskari in the underworld. Because part of your very being is in the underworld, you will be inexplicably drawn to the underworld to reunite with yourself. The knowledge of the Book of Counted Shadows will allow you to open the seals that hold Lord Deskari. It is through this animalistic pull to restore your own heart and soul that you will be the one to seal the fate of all of living creatures on the face of Golarion, it is you who will be forever know as the destroyer of the world. The demon then laughed and laughed and I knew in my soul, the part that is still mine, that his words were true. I could feel the longing to restore my being and it draws me to the seals.
He pauses, wipes his face again.
“So, during the last 25 years, including the last year here, I have battled this unbelievable temptation to find the seals and use the knowledge of the Book of Counted Shadows to open the seals and regain my full self. However, I know that doing so will release Lord Deskari into the world likely killing or putting into slavey all living creatures on Golarian. Despite that you think me evil, I am still bound to the honor of the Vasak family and while I have breached all of the Paladin Code, particularly the part about losing my heart, I still desire to keep the code and hence I fight the temptation to use the knowledge I have to release Lord Deskari. The book of Counted Shadows also provides knowledge to relock broken seals, so long as at least one seal remains and this is why I desire to find this seal. I want to reseal it if it is indeed broken, even if it means forever being forced to carry this demon heart within me and not being reunited my own other half of my heart and soul."
He pats his heart.
“Dorvin was able to tell that I carried evil within me when I came through the Trading Gate a year ago looking for the seal that is within the dwarven kingdom. He warned me not to return and bring that evil back into Stonebeard’s kingdom. This is my curse, and now you know the entire truth.”
He looks to Torg and Charis, who have expressed desires to kill him before.
“Killing me may bring your pleasure or satisfaction for the wrongs I have committed. Killing me may even release me from this tortured life I led, but now that the physical Book of Counted Shadows has been destroyed, only I have the knowledge to reseal any broken seals and I ask now, if you are going to kill me, do it now.”
Bride, who has been silent through his speech, quietly says, “He tells the truth, the Book of Counted Shadows is the only book that contains the information on how to open and close the seals. What I don’t understand is how a demon lord would have come into possession of such a book.”